Consumer Reports: Glucosamine, chondroitin no help for knee pain

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (WPVI) -- Americans spend $300 billion a year on pills, procedures and supplements to ease pain.

But a new report from Consumer Reports says there's one common treatment not worth the money.

Alejandra Morales says knee pain is hampering her life.

"I can't run like I used to run. I want to feel active," she says, rubbing her aching knee.

In fact, half of all adults will eventually develop knee pain from osteoarthritis.

In their search for relief, many people try supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin.

But Consumer Reports medical adviser, Dr. Orly Avitzur, says they aren't likely to help.

"There's very little medical evidence that these two supplements will ease your pain," says Dr. Avitzur.

And glucosamine and chondroitin can pose risks that include an increase in blood sugar levels and a greater chance of bleeding when taken with blood thinners like warfarin.

They can also worsen high blood pressure and may trigger abnormal heart rhythms.

Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons released a "Choosing Wisely" report that encourages people with knee pain to talk with their doctor.

He or she may suggest you get moving with low-impact activities like walking or swimming, combined with exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joints.

"It's likely you'll still need something for flare-ups. We recommend over-the-counter, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen," says Dr. Avitzur.

And if you're still having pain, see an orthopedist, who can evaluate the actual damage to your joints.

In response to Consumer Reports concerns about glucosamine and chondroitin, a trade group for the supplement industry - the Council for Responsible Nutrition - said this: "For most people, these supplements help without safety concerns...However, people should be dialoguing with their doctor about their supplement use."
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